Do you love books – “proper” books, with rustling pages and that slightly musty smell?
So do I. But I’m also a big fan of ebooks: I can fit thousands onto a pocket-sized device, they’re often cheaper than paperbacks, and I can buy a new one anytime, anywhere.
Ebooks have also made it easier than ever to produce a book to professional standards as an independent author. You can achieve results as good as (if not better than) established traditional publishers. Your ebook will never go out of print – and you don’t need to store copies of it in the basement.
There’s a fair amount to know about self-publishing an ebook – I’ve written a whole book about just that. I know many authors get overwhelmed by the amount of information out there, though, so for this post, I’ve picked my top ten tips:
#1: Write the Very Best Book You Can
Your manuscript should be as good as you can make it. Self-publishing isn’t an excuse to put out a rough draft. Imagine that you’re preparing your manuscript to send to agents or editors: is it ready? Darlene Jones, who wrote an excellent post about her writing and publication journey, very sensibly wrote and rewrote, and even approached agents, before settling on self-publication.
#2: Use Beta-Readers
The indie world is a supportive, co-operative one, and that’s often reflected in the willingness of other writers to “beta-read” your work. Like programmers “beta-testing” software, they’ll help you spot problems – such as plot holes, characterisation inconsistencies, and careless writing.
#3: Get it Professionally Edited
However great your beta-readers are, they’re unlikely to have the time or the ability to professionally edit your book. If you can afford it, hire a professional editor. I use the lovely Lorna Fergusson of Fictionfire. If you can’t afford this, consider paying to have the first 3 – 5 chapters edited – many of the comments will help you edit the rest of the book yourself.
#4: Get a Great Cover Design
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover ... but we all do. Unless you’re an artist or designer, don’t try to create your cover yourself – it will inevitably end up looking a bit amateur. Crucially, your cover needs to display well at thumbnail size (so the title and author name should be pretty large).
#5: Publish on Amazon
There are plenty of options for publishing your ebook, but Amazon has by far the greatest share of the market, and also has a fairly simple publication process. If you make your ebook exclusive to Amazon, you can enrol it in their “KDP Select” program – some authors have reported a significant increase in sales from this.
#6: Avoid Scams
There’s nothing wrong with hiring a reputable company to help you get published (BookBaby, for instance) – but some companies are not going to act in your best interests. Avoid Author Solutions, which has had a particular bad rep. Self-publishing expert David Gaughran has a must-read article on this here.
#7: Get Feedback on Your Blurb
Along with your cover, your blurb (which appears as your “Product Description” on the Kindle) is fully in your control ... and it will sway a reader for or against your book. You need to make sure it grabs attention. If you’re part of a workshop group or writers’ forum, you might try producing two versions to see which they prefer.
#8: Price at $2.99
You have a lot of options on price – and you’ll hear different authors advising different things. The general consensus, though, is that the $2.99 price point is the best place to be. You get 70% royalties from Amazon on ebooks priced $2.99 – $9.99 – and the lowest end of this scale is well within “impulse buy” range.
#9: Send out Review Copies
If your ebook has zero reviews, readers will be wary of taking a chance on it. Get some initial reviews by sending out free copies – not just to big review blogs (which are often inundated) but also to writer friends. Rachel Abbot has a great post about reviews, including advice on creating a .pdf sheet to send to reviewers.
#10: Plan the Next Book
Publishing one ebook is unlikely to make you rich. Many established ebook authors say that it took several books – often five or more – before they were receiving a significant income. The more books you have out there, the more chances you have to get in front of a potential reader. You’ll also get plenty of repeat business, and you may well convert some casual readers into die-hard fans.
If you’ve published an ebook, what key tip(s) would you share? Let us know in the comments!